I get a lot of questions from readers, and most of the time, the answers are fairly short. When I feel the question or the reply would be valuable to others as well, I make a post with a collection of them and post them in one go. Today is one of those posts.

"Another Hades/Plouton ask: why is it kind of taboo to actively worship/invoke Hades? I understand His association with death, but He is not the god of death in the way Thanatos is, nor did he choose to be lord of the dear. I've always been very interested in Him both as Hades and as Plouton. I suppose my question is, why is this not really encouraged? Have I interpreted Him all long? Does He prefer not to be invoked by us?"

As king of the Underworld, the ancient texts tell us Hades became quite cut off from the world above. It were only the oaths and curses of men that reached His ears, as they reached those of the Erinyes. This is why when people invoked Him, they dug a pit to sacrifice in and struck the earth with their hands to get His attention. Black male sheep were offered to Him and the person who offered the sacrifice had to turn away his face.

Pausanias wrote in his 'Description of Greece' about the one temple (at Elis) where Hades was worshipped as Lord of the Dead:

"The sacred enclosure of Hades and its temple (for the Eleans have these among their possessions) are opened once every year, but not even on this occasion is anybody permitted to enter except the priest. The following is the reason why the Eleans worship Hades; they are the only men we know of so to do. It is said that, when Heracles was leading an expedition against Pylus in Elis, Athena was one of his allies. Now among those who came to fight on the side of the Pylians was Hades, who was the foe of Heracles but was worshipped at Pylus.
Homer is quoted in support of the story, who says in the Iliad:–
And among them huge Hades suffered a wound from a swift arrow,
When the same man, the son of aegis-bearing Zeus,
Hit him in Pylus among the dead, and gave him over to pains. Hom. Il. 5.395-397
If in the expedition of Agamemnon and Menelaus against Troy Poseidon was according to Homer an ally of the Greeks, it cannot be unnatural for the same poet to hold that Hades helped the Pylians. At any rate it was in the belief that the god was their friend but the enemy of Heracles that the Eleans made the sanctuary for him. The reason why they are wont to open it only once each year is, I suppose, because men too go down only once to Hades. " [6.25.2]

The only other time Hades as Lord of the Underworld was part of religious services seems to have been at funerals.

Hades was worshipped throughout ancient Hellas, but mostly in His epithet of Plouton; 'Wealth-giver', who was mostly connected to the fruitful earth, not the dead. He had a temple in Elis, near Mount Menthe, at Olympia, and was worshipped at Athens in the grove of the Erinnyes. In ancient Hellenic religion and myth, Ploutōn represents a more positive concept of the God who presides over the afterlife. The name Ploutōn came into widespread usage with the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which Ploutōn was venerated as a stern ruler but the loving husband of Persephone.

Ploutōn and Hades came to differ in character, but they are not distinct figures and share their  mythology. Ploutōn as the name of the ruler of the underworld first appears in Hellenic literature of the Classical period, in the works of the Athenian playwrights and of the philosopher Plato, who is the major Hellenic source on its significance. Under the name Ploutōn, the God appears in other myths in a secondary role, mostly as the possessor of a quest-object, and especially in the descent of Orpheus or other heroes to the underworld.

In general, Khthonic--Underworld--deities have Ouranic epithets that make them less scary and more helpful to humanity. It were these epithets that received worship, not the Kthonic ones. Worhipping Hades in His role as Lord of the Dead is a modern concept. Not wrong, per se, but modern.


"My husband and I are started looking into Hellenismos recently and we had a question pertaining to the Percy Jackson books. Percy uses a hand gesture described as a claw over the heart being pushed out to ward off evil. We were wondering if this is a real hand gesture and if so what are its origins? And are there any gestures in the Hellenistic religion that we should know about?"

This hand gesture is unknown to me, based on ancient sources. There are a few others I know of:

- During Ouranic sacrifice, the palms of both hands are turned upwards and the arms raised. During Khthonic sacrifices, this is reversed (palms down, arms down).
- Libations for Ouranic deities are poured out from a bowl in the right hand, libations to Khthonic deities are poured out from a bowl in the left hand.
- The 'fig sign', a gesture made with the hand and fingers curled and the thumb thrust between the middle and index fingers was a fertility and good luck charm designed to ward off evil in ancient Hellas, but is often seen as obscene now.
- The 'Mountza sign' was and is a traditional Greek insilt. It's made by extending and spreading all five fingers and presenting the palm or palms toward the person being insulted.
- When you swear an oath to the Theoi, hold up your right hand, bend your pinkie and ringfinger down to your palm and extend all other fingers up.


"Do you believe that you can consider yourself a practitioner of Traditional Hellenismos if you practice mindfulness, which has its origins in Buddhism? I have issues with anxiety and depression, and I find the techniques of mindfulness immensely helpful."

Yes, I do. The ancient Hellenes were big on meditation and practiced many other self-awareness and tempering techniques as they believed (rightfully so) that it sharpened their minds. Go for it, especially if it helps you! I truly believe that nothing should ever come between you and your mental health, even if it was frowned upon in ancient Hellas.


"What do you think will happen with your soul when you die? In a Hellenic Polytheistic way."

The ancient Hellenes believed that the moment a person died, their psyche--spirit--left the body in a puff or like a breath of wind. Proper burial was incredibly important to the ancient Hellenes, and to not give a loved one a fully ritualized funeral was unthinkable. It was, however, used as punishment of dead enemies, but only rarely. Funerary rites were performed solely to get the deceased into the afterlife, and everyone who passed away was prepared for burial according to time-honored rituals.

Orphic ideas of the soul and afterlife are most often defined by explicit contrast with the Homeric view of the afterlife, which is taken as the standard view for ancient Hellenic culture. The Homeric afterlife is that of a grim, joyless and tedious existence in the Underworld. The Underworld of Homeros exists solely--at least for the now departed mortal--of the Asphodel meadows. The dead drink from the river Lethe and forget who they were. Sacrifical (animal) blood returns a sense of life to the shades and they recover their memories for a short time. In this tradition, life is lived while you are alive. One you die, you are dead. You might cling to life, but you will never truly be part of it again.

The Orphics were an ancient mystical cult with affinities to Indian religious systems. They believed in reincarnation and the possibility of liberation. Orpheus, the movement's legendary founder, is said to have taught that soul and body are locked together during life; the soul is divine, immortal and aspires to freedom, and during life, the body acts as a prison to the soul. Death releases the soul for a short while, but is then captured by another body until that, too, dies, and so the soul moves from body to body--both human and animal--until it can attain the highest good: liberation. In order to reach liberation, the Orphic way teaches to turn to God by ascetic piety of life and self-purification: the purer the life lived, the higher will be the next reincarnation, until the soul has completed the spiral ascent of destiny to live for ever as God from whom it comes.

The ancient Hellenes called this process 'Metempsychosis' (μετεμψύχωσις). It is a philosophical term which refers to the transmigration of the soul, especially its reincarnation after death. The notion that the human soul enters another body upon death, though unfamiliar in Hellenic religion, was widespread in Hellenic philosophy. The doctrine of transmigration is first associated with the Pythagoreans and Orphics and was later taught by Plato and Pindar. For the former groups, the soul retained its identity throughout its reincarnations; Plato indicated that souls do not remember their previous experiences. Although Herodotus claims that the Hellenes learned this idea from Egypt, most scholars do not believe it came either from Egypt or from India, but developed independently.
My personal believes of life after death have shifted over the years. I transitioned into Hellenismos from Eclectic Religious Witchcraft and in my former Tradition, reincarnation was the primary belief. Since the ancient Hellenes had a version of it in metepsychosis, I simply went with that. Now, the older I get and the better my understanding becomes of the ancient Hellenic culture and religion, the more I pull to a more Homeric version of the afterlife. A bit later, perhaps, where Elysium is an option for those who live the highest, purest, of lives. I long for the meadows now. I don't strive for Elysium; I don't think it's for the common folk like me. Give me the meadows and the water of the river Lethe. Let me live life to the fullest. Let me live its up and downs. Give me the completion of my goals and my challenges, and then let me forget and wander in contentment, remembered sometimes--hopefully fondly--by those I leave behind.